Public housing receives $16.3 million
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
By Mary Vorsino
The state will get $16.3 million for public housing capital improvements from the federal economic stimulus package as early next week, and hopes to devote much of the money to tackling backlogged maintenance needs.
The federal money would be used on renovations, reroofing, electrical system repairs and rehabilitating vacant units under a proposal that will go before the state Public Housing Authority board tomorrow. The housing authority also is looking to hire at least four temporary employees to oversee the work.
"These are repairs that we've been needing money to do," said Chad Taniguchi, housing authority executive director. "We still have a lot more (backlogged repairs) even after this, but funding is certainly welcome and needed."
The federal stimulus money is in addition to the $12 million the state receives annually from the federal government to help maintain its federally funded public housing units. The stimulus money cannot be used for operating expenses, though 0.5 percent of it can be used for administrative expenses. The state has one year to make sure all of the funds are obligated.
All of the money must be spent within three years.
The federal funding comes as the housing authority is working to improve its operations and pool limited resources to address more than $320 million in backlogged capital needs at aging projects statewide. The state oversees 5,363 federally funded public housing units in the Islands.
An additional 864 units in the housing authority's stock are state-funded.
Travis Thompson, authority board chairman, said the economic stimulus funding will give public housing in the state a needed boost. But, he added, the authority still has a long list of repairs that it won't be able to get to. "There's a lot of balancing that has to go on" in deciding which repairs to make, he said.
The economic stimulus package included some $3 billion for public housing capital improvements, which was divvied up among housing authorities by formula. An additional $1 billion will be competitively awarded to authorities for renewable energy and vacant unit repair projects.
Taniguchi said the state housing authority will apply for money under both categories.
The money is expected to be awarded by Sept. 30.
The state has long worked to reduce the number of vacant units in its inventory. In February, the housing authority had some 310 vacant units at federally funded projects statewide and about 72 vacant units at state-funded projects. The total does not include vacant units taken out of the inventory for modernization, demolition or safety reasons, but does include those in need of repairs.
Reach Mary Vorsino at firstname.lastname@example.org.